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Monday, 6 August 2012

Meditations On Caped Crusaders

It isn't the power that makes a hero.

You'd think it would be, wouldn't you? After all, Spider-Man isn't just a guy with an unhealthy obsession, he arrived at his monicker via radioactive spiderbite. Iron Man isn't just a millionaire genius playboy philanthropist, Steve Rogers isn't Captain America because he's a bit patriotic, and Batman isn't just a bloke with a very limited wardrobe.

But then we think about it, and we realise - power isn't what makes these people heroes, either.

Let's face it. The heroes aren't the only ones with power. For every man or woman that would give up everything to uphold their moral code, you'll find a dozen that have no moral code, that would happily murder, steal and cheat their way to victory. Some of them stone-cold sane, some of them significantly less so.

Certainly - Doctor Octopus, Lex Luthor, The Violator and Critical Maas all have the power to do great things, to save lives, to prevent tragedy, to act as heroes. But none of them do. That is left to Spider-Man, to Superman, to Spawn, to the other Specials.

The stuff of heroism isn't, then, to be found in the power to do the deed; it lays in the will, and for that deed to be a righteous one.

I'm a librarian. I am a strong advocate of carrying comic books in libraries. Not just the literary types - all types. For every copy of Watchmen, V For Vendetta and Maus, I'd like to see collected editions of Batman, X-Men, Superman, Iron Man, the Green Lantern, and Captain America, because all of these things teach lessons.

The lesson is that it isn't the capacity you have to enact change that matters - what matters is the change you make. That at the end of the day the value of a life shouldn't be measured in the scale of its deeds, in the quantity, but in the quality.

Because Galactus can devour planets, Apocalypse can end everything, the Black Lantern Corps are death incarnate, and Bane's genius can lay low even the greatest - but all of them were beaten, by men and women brave enough to do the right thing.

And that's why I want comic books in my library.

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